greatest progress in the 1860s under the leadership of the Jesuits. They were particularly prominent in the publication of works of popular devotion for the Poles in the three zones of occupation. Their review, Prezglad Powszechny, became from 1884 the most important intellectual organ for Polish Catholics. A great artist and national hero, St Albert Chmielowski, organised a fraternity of men and women in the service of the poorest.

Among the numerous initiatives that characterised this movement, a major innovation compared with the older tradition was the leading place of women. There were some remarkable personalities, sensitive to the needs of the time, and dozens of congregations of Polish and foreign origin, which developed structures most notably for education and social assistance.

Female action even succeeded in implanting itself clandestinely in the Russian zone. A movement of Franciscan tertiaries was organised in some twenty-five specialist congregations under the direction of a Capuchin, Honorat Kozminski, who was confined and controlled by the police in a small provincial convent without permission to leave it. He communicated with his collaborators through the confessional, directing the activities ofthe sisters (also ofthe brothers, who were apparently less numerous) towards the urgent needs of society, notably the workers, female servants, and peasants. Some thousands of people organised in little groups dispersed throughout the country and several tens of thousands of associates (perhaps as many as 100,000), most of them women, succeeded in escaping the surveillance of the Russian police and quietly developed religious devotion and effective social work under the guise of officially sanctioned activities.

The situation at the beginning of the twentieth century

An important change occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Russian Revolution of 1905, which created much greater freedom for the church in the zone comprising the greater part of the former federation -which was never forgotten - and of the Polish population. The social context was in any case very different after the profound transformation of the nineteenth century. The population had doubled since i860, and now comprised some 20 million Poles in place of 1 million in 1800. This was the second generation of people free from serfdom and with rising aspirations. National consciousness increased enormously. But at the same time, difficulties ofevery sort and social and national discontent increased considerably. There was also growing tension between the peoples of the former federation: between Poles

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment